New Zealand Neurologic EHV-1: Seven Horses Euthanized

New Zealand Neurologic EHV-1: Seven Horses Euthanized

Officials confirmed the country's first case of neurologic EHV-1 (seen here) on a single stud farm.

Photo: George P. Allen, PhD

New Zealand's first reported neurologic equine herpesvirus-1 (EHV-1) outbreak has claimed several equine victims on the one affected property. As of Feb. 2, 13 horses on the property had been affected by neurologic EHV-1, Andre van Halderen, principal advisor for the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), told The Horse via e-mail received Feb. 7.

"Of the 13 horses, seven have been euthanized," he said. "The other affected horses are receiving supportive care."

No new cases have been reported on the property since Feb. 2, van Halderen said; still, the MPI is working closely with the New Zealand equine industry and the affected property.

"MPI is investigating movement of horses on and off the affected property; however, it is likely that the origin of the virus on this property may never be known," he explained. "It could have arrived relatively recently, or it may be that the disease was triggered in a horse that had been a latent carrier for a long time."

Van Halderen said the farm's owner has voluntarily quarantined the affected areas and put the following biosecurity measures in place:

  • No routine procedures involving handling of the animals have been conducted on the stud farm;
  • There are five affected paddocks on the stud farm and no one has entered these paddocks since Jan. 20;
  • The farm has provided disinfection footbaths and overboots; and
  • Personnel handling the sick animals are showering afterward.

"MPI is satisfied the current quarantine measures in place are sufficient to manage the situation," he said.

Van Halderen also noted that MPI's "diagnostic scientists are doing further testing to find out more about this (neurologic) strain of EHV-1."

Although it's not transmissible to humans, EHV-1 is highly contagious among horses and camelids and is generally passed from horse to horse via aerosol transmission (when affected animals sneeze/cough) and contact with nasal secretions on objects such as feed buckets, grooming supplies, humans, and other infected animals. The disease can cause a variety of ailments in equids, including rhinopneumonitis (a respiratory disease usually found in young horses), abortion in broodmares, and myeloencephalopathy.

Health Alert: Equine Herpesvirus (EHV)

Myeloencephalopathy is characterized by fever, ataxia (incoordination), weakness or paralysis of the hind limbs, and incontinence. Should a horse that potentially has been exposed to EHV-1 display any of the aforementioned clinical signs, call a veterinarian to obtain samples and test for the disease.

"EHV-1 is not a notifiable or regulated disease in New Zealand as it is very common here and in other countries worldwide," van Halderen said. "(The neurologic form) has not been reported on any other properties but the MPI is asking horse owners to be vigilant and report any suspicious symptoms to their vet."

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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